This has almost certainly been said before some place else. Heck, i might have said it a while ago. Doesn’t make it any less true though:
It’s only now that we’re seeing shows that incorporate ideas and concepts from Japanese programming in a more subtle and nuanced way. One great example of this? Steven Universe.
If you know your anime, you’ll know that most anime intended for a mainstream audience tends to be categorised into distinct genres, which are usually named after the demographic it’s aimed at. Shonen anime, for example, is stuff aimed at young and adolescent boys and is the realm of stuff like Dragon Ball and One Piece.
Shojo anime, meanwhile, is for the same age range but for girls instead. And one of the biggest sub-genres of Shojo anime is Magical Girls anime. These sort of shows tend to involve a group of usually teenage girls who gain special powers and fight evil monsters every week, often while wearing colour-coded costumes. Some classic examples of this are shows like Revolutionary Girl Utena and of course Sailor Moon.
So what has Steven Universe got to do with this? Well, he we have an animated show about a trio of women who are a race of human-like beings called the Crystal Gems. The three of them wear colour-coded clothing, each have special powers and specific weapons, and they often fight evil. So, up to this point, it’s basically a magical girls show. And here’s where the magic comes in: see, there used to be four of these Crystal Gems, until one of them, Rose Quartz, died. But before she died, she gave birth to a half-human, half-Gem child which the remaining original Gems now raise and act as both parental and mentor figures for. And what is this child, you ask? A little boy. A little, super-positive boy!
Think about that for once second, because if you strip the show to its core, you’d realise that this show is essentially a magical girls show that just so happens to have a boy as its lead protagonist. And that’s the progressive genius of Steven Universe; by having a super-happy male protagonist grow up looking up to three women who all come from a world that exhibits a lot of things from something that is usually seen as ‘girly’ or ‘not for boys’, it helps plant the idea in people’s minds that anybody can enjoy these things, not just ‘girls’ as some would say. I think this is a really great idea, especially since this is on a kids network.